8:55 AM ET
The biggest and most lucrative fight of Caleb Plant’s career could lie ahead in 2021, but the current IBF super middleweight titleholder isn’t getting ahead of himself.
Plant’s focus is on Saturday, when he’ll put his title on the line for the third time as he takes on former world titlist Caleb Truax (Fox, 8 p.m. ET). A potential showdown with boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez, or perhaps one of the other marquee names in the division, won’t happen if Saturday’s fight doesn’t go his way.
This fight in particular is not just about “staying busy” — it’s about satisfying the IBF, the sanctioning body who has installed Truax as the mandatory challenger to his belt. Alvarez still has to take care of Avni Yildrim on Feb. 27 and, if he wins, he’s scheduled to face WBO super middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders in May.
If Plant wins on Saturday, he’d have to wait until at least September to face Alvarez, assuming Alvarez wins his two next fights.
“It was a situation where anybody that’s heard the rumors of the Canelo fight potentially happening, or any other unification fights for that matter, [where] the IBF is usually the strictest out of all the sanctioning bodies with their mandatories and they usually do not waive a mandatory for you to have a bigger fight or even a unification fight,” Plant told ESPN. “So, later on in the year, we didn’t want to run into a situation where a big fight could be made, but they wouldn’t waive it because I had a mandatory.
“We thought that we’d do back-to-back mandatories [after beating Vincent Feigenbutz in February 2020], which would leave me open and clear a year’s worth of free time to make those big unification fights — not only for the fans, but for myself as well.”
Plant (20-0, 12 KOs) won’t just walk through Truax (31-4-2, 19 KOs), although Truax faces long odds as a 14-1 underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Truax previously upset James DeGale in December 2017 as a 25-1 underdog to win the IBF super middleweight title.
Truax is embracing that underdog role when they enter the ring in Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium. Could history repeat itself?
“At my age, at 37, there is no telling when I’ll be able to get a world title fight again,” Truax said during a media conference call on Jan. 21. “So I’ve been approaching it as if this is my last shot. I’ve been very focused in camp and just determined to leave it all in the ring and get my belt back.”
Truax has experience against a long list of former world champions that includes DeGale, Peter Quillin, Jermain Taylor, Daniel Jacobs and Anthony Dirrell.
But Plant is a big favorite for a reason. Beyond his skill set and accomplishments, his motivation could not be any bigger. An impressive victory could help set Plant up for prime-time future bouts against other world titleholders at super middleweight: Alvarez, Billy Joe Saunders or even former titleholder David Benavidez.
Caleb Truax, left, defeated James DeGale for the IBF super middleweight world title in December 2017. He attempts to win that belt again on Saturday against Caleb Truax. Christopher Lee/Getty Images
“We are all human, so it’s not like it hasn’t come to mind or I haven’t thought of [getting the unification fights], but at the end of the day, I have to hold myself to a higher standard and a higher level. I’m a world champion and I know the immense amount of focus that it took to become a world champion and I know the immense amount of focus that it takes to stay a world champion,” Plant said. “And that is, and I’ve done this time and time throughout my life, no matter what is happening on the outside or what was going on in my life or what trial or tribulation or whatever it may be that’s going on when I get to the gym, when it’s fight time or when it’s time to do what I do best.
“I have to block that out and clear all the noise and zone in and focus. I think that’s what championship material athletes can do in any sport, whether it’s basketball, football or boxing,” he continued. “At a high level there’s always gonna be noise and rumors, whether it’s fake stories or real ones. You’ve got to be able to block that out and zone in and focus on the task at hand.”
Everyone in the super middleweight division seems to be lining themselves up for something big this summer. Benavidez, the undefeated former WBC world titlist who was stripped of the title after testing positive for cocaine in 2018, is preparing for a return to the ring on March 13 against Ronald Ellis. He’ll certainly be paying attention to Plant-Truax. He predicts Plant will win “fairly easily” and says he would “love that fight” with Plant in addition to other stars within the division.
“There’s not just Canelo in this weight class, I hear that maybe one of the Charlo brothers [Jermall] is coming up to 168, so that could definitely be a great fight,” Benavidez said. “A potential fight for me in the future, but for me, I’m just gonna keep working hard and doing what I’m doing. I feel like eventually I’m gonna get a big opportunity so I’ve just got to stay ready, stay focused and continue doing what I’m doing.”
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For now, all of the chatter has to be background noise for Plant as he focuses on Truax. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Plant said his training camp in Las Vegas was one of his best to date. He credits that to his quality of sparring as well as no restrictions of getting to the gym or anything that interfered with strength and conditioning.
There will be a lot of eyes on Saturday’s fight regardless of how likely the world thinks Plant is to retain his title. And so when he enters the ring against Truax, Plant is intent on sending a message by aiming for a stoppage.
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t say it otherwise. If I say it, I mean it, and thus far, everything that I’ve said, I feel like I’ve backed up,” Plant said. “Whether it was stepping up to fight Jose [Uzcategui] with [only] 17 fights [in my record] or whatever else it’s been in my career. So I am going for the stoppage. I’m going for the knockout and that’s the level of excellence that I want to hold myself to into this fight.”
So, no matter who’s next, whether it’s Alvarez, Saunders, Benavidez or someone else, Plant is ready to blossom into the star he believes his abilities prove he’s capable of being. Plant wants to become the first undisputed super middleweight in boxing history.
“I’m the best in the division and I feel like I’m too well-rounded,” Plant said. “I feel like there’s too many areas in my game that I’ve sharpened and crafted and brought to a really high level.
“I am the top guy in the super middleweight division.”
By the numbersFighterOpponent
landed per roundBilly Joe Saunders6.84.6Caleb Plant7.55.5Daniel Jacobs10.97.4Canelo Alvarez12.47.1Division average15.310.9The oddsCaleb Plant vs. Caleb Truax betting oddsPlant: -6000Truax: +1700Plant by KO/TKO/DQ: -275Plant by decision/Tech. decision: +210Truax by KO/TKO/DQ: +2000Truax by decision/Tech. decision: +2800Draw: +2500Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William HillTale of the tapePlantTruaxUnited StatesCountryUnited States28Age3720-0, 12 KOsRecord31-4-2, 19 KOs6-1Height6-174 inchesReach75 inchesOrthodoxStanceOrthodoxFull card
Title fight: Caleb Plant vs. Caleb Truax, 12 rounds, for Plant’s IBF super middleweight title
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